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Taking Advantage of an Opportunity

Taking Advantage of an Opportunity Taking Advantage of an Opportunity
By Jim Hammond

This past week, Raymond McCauley and myself headed out for a day of fishing in the backwaters of Jacksonville. This was an important day for two reasons, we were fishing and we were filming one of my weekly shows.

On this morning I got up a little earlier than usual so I could research some of my logs for days that were similar to this one. Keeping logs about past trips is a great way to have a great data base to look back on. I keep such information as wind, wind direction, wind speed, moon phase, date, water temperature, bait used, fish caught, where the fish were caught, air temperature, barometer, and a few other elements. I have a program on my PC that allows me to enter each of the above as a separate field and then sort or select this information using these fields. For example; say I have 200 days entered in this data base and each having moon phase, temperature and so on as a separate part of each day. By doing this I can go into this program and ask the computer to select all days that have the field that is titled "fish caught" that equals red fish. What I have done is to pull up all days (records) that I caught red fish. Or I can ask the computer to pull up all days that I caught red fish on days that the wind was out of the south and days that we had a full moon and days that the tide got really low and so on.

On this day I asked the computer to pull up all days that I fished in the creeks and caught red fish when the moon was full and the tide was really low. When the computer did it's search it brought up several days (records) where all of the information that I asked it to look for was common. The moon was full, the tides were really low, I caught redfish and where I caught the fish. Now you could do the same thing by keeping all of this information in your calendar but how long would it take you to look through several years of calendars to find all of this info? Longer than I would like to spend.

In all of the days that were selected, two things kept popping up as a common factor. Three places, that when the tide got really low the fish were super concentrated into these small areas and that I was using finger mullet for bait. Now, I had some sort of an idea of what I needed to do to catch fish on this day. Ah, a game plan. On the way to the dock, I called the three bait shops that were on the way to the boat ramp and NONE had mullet so I knew that I was going to have to depend on my Fitec cast net to provide me with the bait that I wanted to use on this trip.

Arriving at the dock, I was greeted by my producer, Scott Aston and my guest for the day Raymond McCauley. They were both as anxious as I was and we quickly launched the boat and away from the dock we went. I let Raymond drive as I got ready the cast net. Raymond eased me along the shoreline in search of today's bait, finger mullet. It wasn't long before we saw a little school pushing water and with one cast of my 8 foot Fitec net, I had about two dozen finger mullet. A few more cast and we had all of the bait that we were going to need for this day. When throwing a cast net for finger mullet, I like a 1/4 inch mesh. This small mesh allows me to capture just about every thing that the nets lands over. There are times when the mullet are small, about three inches long and these small mullet will swim through a larger mesh size.

Okay, we have bait, and a couple of excited willing anglers and we are off in pursuit of the nicer inshore redfish.

My first spot was looking good, mullet jumping every where and an occasional strike from something eating them. We eased up to this spot, Raymond eased out the anchor and I was quick to get my finger mullet in the strike zone. I then got ready to rare back and set the hook. Now, a few minutes have passed with fish busting all around my mullet and nothing. What is going on here? I have the killer bait and it is in the right spot but no big fish on my hook. This was taking a lot longer than I figured it would and I was about to get frustrated when I heard what sounded like a big explosion. I looked toward my float just in time to see the results of a big fish that had inhaled my mullet. Both Scott and Raymond are hollering turn the handle as I was trying to get a tight line as hard as I could. this fish was coming straight towards the boat much faster than I could get the slack back on the spool. The fish rocketed past the boat as he headed for open deeper water. As the line came tight, I hit him one time to set the hook and this seemed to make this fish really mad. He bolted away from the boat with the speed and furry of what could only be one thing, a big fish. I love it when a fish heads for open water as opposed to in and around the oysters. Man I was having fun, a big fish screaming line from my reel and keeping my rod bent almost in half. After several runs around the boat this fish was ready for the net. As I led the fish up from the bottom, I could see the yellow hue and the football shape common to Mr. Jack but it was a nice one, about 5 to 6 pounds. This is not exactly what I was targeting as my computer program was in search of red fish but how can you turn your nose up at a good pulling fish like a nice jack.

We stayed at this spot for another ten minutes or so and saw no other fish working, so we beat feet to the next spot. This spot showed some promise with a few fish busting but after about ten minutes and no bites we had to leave this spot. See , we are working the low end of the tide and therefore we only had about two hours before the tide would be start back in and then be too high. The next spot was about 8 miles away so I pushed the throttle down on my Honda 225 and as it opened up my 2790 Carolina Skiff was pushing speeds of about 50 mph.

It wasn't long before we arrived at the next spot and I liked what I saw, mullet showering and fish busting. We quickly eased the anchor over and got our baits in the right spot. You could see the schools of red fish working the bank, busting the mullet that were in their path. He comes a school of reds right for my mullet and it seemed as the competition factor set in as two reds tried to inhale my little bait at the same time. As this was happening, my cork went under and I immediately tighten up the line and off to the races it went. Once again my reel was making that funny noise that we all like so much to hear as the big red pulled out line. These big backwater reds are just amazing as how they seem to pull so long and so hard. This fish took all of 4 minutes to get to the net and we were now cooking with gas. I told Raymond to cast at the fish that were working down the bank and as soon as his bait hit the water he was also hooked up. Another nice red fish was screaming line from his reel as he could be seen with a big smile that went from ear to ear. Raymond was now pumped up as his fish ran to the end of the pool and then back down the other bank. After several minutes, Raymond also had a nice fish in the net.

The next fish was a very nice flounder, that ate one of our 6 inch long mullets. We then landed another flounder and I lost one that would have gone 4 or 5 pounds. I wound my cork back towards the boat to check the bait and felt something heavy on the business end but felt no head shake or anything pulling back. The entire time I was winding the cork back to the boat, I kept saying, "I must be hung on something" but never did feel anything that resembled a fish. When I got the cork back to the boat and tried to lift it up, I was able to see just what I was hung on, a big flounder that was just holding on to my bait but had not sucked it down yet. Well, I guess he also saw me because he spit out the bait and swam away. We live and we learn.

Raymond with a very nice trout, caught on a mullet and cork rig.

I quickly rebaited and back on the edge my bait went. About then Raymond was hooked up on another nice fish but it did not pull back like the two previous red fish. After a short battle, I put the net on a very nice trout that was about five pounds.

Alright another bonus fish. See I thought we were going to catch reds and I had no idea that we would end up with the SLAM. We fished a while longer and boated another nice flounder and several more nice trout.

What a day, we started off with a big backwater jack and ended up with red fish, trout and flounder. All in less than 18 inches of water and all on a cork and a live finger mullet.

Who would have thunk it, The SLAM, all on a mullet and cork rig and all in less than 18 inches of water.

The rig that I was using:

Rod: Shakespeare Graphite 7 foot Medium Action
Reel: Shakespeare Tidewater 4835 Spinning Reel
Line: 10 lb test, 2 lb diameter Power Pro Braided Line
Leader: Cajun Red Lighting 20 lb test
Cork: Cajun Thunder
Hook: Daiichi D16Z Bleeding Bait Octopus Wide
Cast Net: Fitec Super Spreader 8 foot 1/4 inch mesh
Bait: Live finger mullet

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